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Meet the New President of the UAL East Coast Alumni Association

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Published date 10 February 2016

Working with some of the biggest names in the creative industry clearly isn’t enough for London College of Fashion (LCF) alumnus Bruce Reynolds. He has now stepped forward to take the lead in bringing together our graduates in and around New York. As the new President of our East Coast Alumni Association, Bruce, along with his committee of alumni volunteers, will be working on a programme of events and communications to help our local graduates network, socialise and collaborate.

Bruce tells us about his time at LCF, his astonishing career in fashion, television, marketing/ communications/ branding and also what he loves about living in New York.

 I really believe in UAL. The mission, the point of view, the approach, everything. Graduates from UAL colleges have impacted the world we live in, business wise, and creatively.
– Bruce Reynolds 

What inspired you to come and study at London College of Fashion?
I completed a BTEC 1st diploma at College of Distributive Trades which was in Leicester Square then, going on to LCF was a natural choice as I wanted to continue my education. I wanted to learn more about the business side of fashion and also go on to University, but doing A-levels did not appeal. Charles Wallace (a very distinguished man) interviewed me for my LCF place, and he just seemed to make me feel like it would be a good course that I’d enjoy, and he was right. I’m not a fan of strict exams as I don’t think they truly represent someone’s grasp of a subject. I found the BTEC courses at LCD and LCF a much better match for me. More hands on and practical, as opposed to just reciting information from a text book in timed conditions.

What tips would you give anyone wanting to study at LCF?
Enjoy every second! It’s a very unique place that celebrates and encourages diversity, positive individuality, and self-expression. They also give good direction on how to apply these in the real worlds of creativity and business. Also, BIG THING, intern, intern, intern. Make the contacts and stay in touch. I did work experience at a few places and it was very eye opening, and I made great contacts and friends. Also, make friends at college, you’ll be surprised how much you encourage each other. I still have brilliant UAL friends who continue to inspire me and make me laugh decades later, artist/painter Hugh Miller is one.

What did you do when you completed your course?
I went to another university for a few months, but the course was not a good match so I left and modelled for a bit, that led to modelling in New York, and while there I learned people had to pay a lot of money for a degree, and back then in the UK, we did not. Around this time Tyson Beckford landed the massive Ralph Lauren campaign/contract and there was only space for one man of colour to land such a gig. Not loving modelling that much, I returned to London and worked in PR and re-applied to University, with a more focused approach. I did a business, finance and marketing degree with an arts management component. After graduating from university, I interned at Bloomberg Financial News doing marketing, and while there the journalism bug kicked in, so I got an MA in TV journalism. I got a job at the BBC in the National Business and Economics News bureau that covered consumer business and retail news. After a couple of years, Asia was on a major rise and I wanted to know more about what was going on there. So I ceased an opportunity to do an MBA and teach broadcast journalism in the State of Hawaii, which is close to Asia but is still in the USA. While there, an old contact from the fashion world in London wanted me to help with their international marketing and PR strategy that focused on the markets in Asian and America. It was a perfect fit, and I was able to work remotely. After Hawaii, I moved to LA continuing to work in marketing, TV and brand communications/strategy, and now I’m here in New York.

What advice would you give any graduate wanting to do the same?
Be clear on what you want to do in the US. There are many options, and many people. Be open to opportunities but also be mindful of what you really want to do. Also, America, and then each State within it, have very different cultures. Just because we speak a similar language do not underestimate the cultural differences.

Tell us about your exciting career so far
Thanks for asking. I tend to sit in the seats of marketing, strategic communications, journalist, brand management, and experiential. The foundation that underpins all of these is communication whether it’s words, images or brand interaction.  My thought process, global point of view, eye, whatever one wishes to call it, has led me to work with some amazing people, companies, and partnerships such as General Motors, Nike, Under Armour, eBay, Givenchy, H&M x Alexander Wang, H&M x Balmain, Topshop Topman, CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund awards, ABC, ITV, and the BBC. People wise, they include Julia Roberts, Riccardo Tich who’s also a graduate of Central Saint Martin’s, Cara Delivenge, Sir Philip Green, Bruce Willis, Dennis Quaid, Quentin Tarrino, Alexander Wang, Mary J Blinge, Vera Wang, and those are just the immediate ones that come to mind.

What’s your favourite thing about living in New York?
Oh gosh there’s lots. Most of all though probably the sample sales. Very Gilt sounding. But to give a deeper answer though, New York City is very interesting. It spans 5 boroughs; Queen’s, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Manhattan, and the Bronx. Each have great restaurants, vibrant cultures, and street couture in their own way. Each has its own distinct personality that continuously evolves, and that’s something that keeps the city rather fresh. For example, Staten Island is ear marked to open a large designer shopping outlet which will be cool as it’ll be easily accessible from Wall Street. You’ll just get the ferry across that will also go by the Statue of Liberty.

What has been your greatest/proudest achievement?
There are a few to be honest. When I was at the BBC I was one of the youngest people on National TV on-air covering business and financial news. I’ve worked with Givenchy for the NYFW runway show, the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Award, The Metropolitan Costume Gala, the Top Shop 5th Ave flagship store launch, H&M x Balmain, interning at Bloomberg. Yes they are great but as a man and a man of colour for whatever reason, I find myself to be a minority in most rooms I work in. So to be there, is an additional achievement, for me. If I walked into any work place and there were no women, I’d think there is something not right, and similarly in this day and age, I think if you walk into a room and there’s no diversity, colour wise, one should think there’s something not quite right. So for me, when I am the one representing diversity, that is a great achievement.

What made you first want to get involved in our East Coast Alumni Association?
I really believe in UAL. The mission, the Point of view, the approach, everything.  Graduates from UAL colleges have impacted the world we live in, business wise, and creatively. Stella McCartney, the late Alexander McQueen, Jimmy Choo, Riccadro Tiche, Parick Cox and many more. If I can help foster a UAL community on the East Coast, that keeps people’s creative juices and visions going, then that’s a good thing in my view. The UK government recently released that the creative industries is worth over £84 Billion to the UK economy, in California it was released that the creative industries, including entertainment, visual arts, fashion and publishing, generated $293.8 billion to that State economy. The East Coast is situated between the two, there’s lots here for our Association and UAL.

What’s the best thing about being part of this creative community?
I’ve never met a boring person yet that’s been associated with UAL. Although we may have gone to different colleges within the UAL, I’ve always found a realness and determination for self-expression, as a common thread which I love. Let’s say I always find there’s unity in the diversity.

You’re now the East Coast Alumni Association’s President! What do you want to see happen with the community in the future?
I would like us to be just that. A community and also have platforms to showcase talent. My first steps to help make this happen are I’ve recently struck a partnership with Microsoft. So far this has led to us being able to use their event space at the Flagship store on 5th Ave New York, which is prime location, and it’s a great brand. I think it’s important to get people in the same room and for that we need a location. For 2016 I’m introducing the Alumni Calendar and creating a variety of speaker series such as ‘Behind the Brand’ and ‘Creativity Speaks’. We had our first test event at the close of 2015 and we looked at the business of Virtual Reality, and wouldn’t you know the big subject for 2016 is the rise of VR. My hope is these talks and events can be used as models across other UAL Alumni Associations, so that we can have a synergy and become a global community. I’m also exploring possible collaborations with the British Council, the UKTI and also, more will be shared in the coming months.

Find out more about the East Coast Alumni Association

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Bruce Reynolds in front of work by Hugh Millar

Bruce Reynolds in front of work by Hugh Miller